Why The Crucible’ Remains Important Today
For a story of any kind to have any relevance or meaning some 50 years after being written and indeed almost 400 years after it was set, it needs to contain themes and ideas that have been uniformly felt and experienced by people from all walks of life as well as continuing to speak to and have meaning to new and changed generations of people. Years after being written, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible’, still successfully speaks to numerous generations of people, that although live in different countries, under different governments and belong to different peer groups, experience the same issues that the characters of The Crucible’ experienced as well as the same issues that were experienced by Arthur Miller at the time of writing. The Crucible’ effectively addresses not only the issue of conformity found in all social groups, it illustrates the remarkable amount of power a select group of people may possess, purely because it is they who are entitled to interpret the various law and morals by which people live as well as the numerous injustices that continue to torment mankind.
A strong theme in The Crucible’, conformity is an idea or even an issue that has been present and has plagued mankind for generations. The indisputable need to conform to the Church’s view and those of its ministers is gravely evident in The Crucible’ and causes much personal conflict in the play’s characters. The group of accused charac-ters must either turn their backs on their beliefs and morals and lie by admitting to having trafficked with the devil’, thereby conforming to the Church’s desires. Their only other option is to follow their beliefs and morals by refusing to lie which quite possibly could result in death by hanging. This kind of pressure has plagued cultures everywhere for almost all of time and it begs the question: Is a person bad if they do not live by the rules of the Church, their government or their social group and if so should they be prosecuted for their own interpretations of these rules’? People under-stand now more than ever, that if they decide to deviate from what is considered to be socially normal, they will be labeled and in many cases cast out or excommunicated from the society from which they originate.
The Crucible’ not only addresses the issue of conformity, it attacks the poor balance of power that surrounds us everyday. Miller demonstrates how much power a sole in-dividual can have when the decisions made by that person effect a whole community. During the Witchcraft Trials in Salem, religion was, much more than now the answer to the unknown and the unexplained. As a result, the Church and the people in its service were people of prominence and power. They were the only people who could successfully interpret the Church’s doctrine, often to their own benefit, without being accused of a wrong doing and what could be more powerful than this in a theocratic society like Salem? This corrupt hierarchy meant that nobody could question a priest or minister because doing so would be considered questioning God. As a result, a per-son of such power could say almost anything they pleased, people would listen and appropriate action taken. This is evidenced with the supposed cleansing’ of Salem. Although an event that occurred before the writing of The Crucible’, the Holocaust is a prime example of imbalanced power. Hitler, a man of great power, especially in Nazi Germany, basically accused a few million people of being witches. Action was taken and millions perished all because people conformed to what was considered so-cially normal and deviation offered grave consequences.
While the Church and its clergy are no longer as powerful as they were in the past, primarily because people can now openly admit to not believing in God without the fear of being hung, there is a new group of people that are able to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Science could be considered the new religion and scientists, the new priests and ministers. Scientists are considered to be educated at a higher level than the rest of the population and so in large they are not questioned. This is the same kind of reliance that people had on the Church up until recently.
As history has shown us, the types of injustices suffered by those accused in the Sa-lem Witch Trials continue to go on. We see parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and other issues even today, such as the drama that is the Schaepel Corby case. Was she a planned and predetermined scapegoat incase the narcotics were discovered or is she indeed a drug trafficker? The truth remains to be seen regarding her case, although there is a chance that, like countless other people before she has been wrongfully ac-cused and mistreated. The Crucible’ addresses the idea of a select group of people choosing another group to act as a scapegoat to supposed problem.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible’ addresses issues which are as important and relevant today as they were 50 years ago when the play was written. The idea of conforming to a social norm is one that people have faced throughout time and will undoubtedly con-tinue to do so regardless of geographical, economic and social factors. People in posi-tions of power continue to influence the ideas and beliefs by which we live and for as long as society empowers them, they will continue to exist. So will the scapegoating’ of individuals and groups in order to benefit another’s problem or cause. The Cruci-ble’ is a play that has an immense impact due to its ability to touch and dissect issues and themes that have plagued mankind throughout history. Many of these issues are relevant in the 21st century and will no doubt continue to affect mankind into the fore-seeable future.